Wrestlers’ protest, a timeline

ByAvishek Roy
Apr 28, 2023 10:35 PM IST

From January to now, their demand has been constant: sack the WFI chief

India's top wrestlers are staging an unprecedented protest against the all-powerful Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh. The sit-in at Jantar Mantar started on January 18 when the wrestlers levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Singh. Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, two-time world championships medallist Vinesh Phogat and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik are the protest’s faces. They resumed their protest on Sunday demanding an FIR to be lodged against Singh. Here's how the saga has unfolded:

New Delhi: Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sangita Phogat and Sakshi Malik exercise at Jantar Mantar during their protest, in New Delhi, early Friday, April 28, 2023. (PTI Photo)(PTI04_28_2023_000053B)(PTI)
New Delhi: Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sangita Phogat and Sakshi Malik exercise at Jantar Mantar during their protest, in New Delhi, early Friday, April 28, 2023. (PTI Photo)(PTI04_28_2023_000053B)(PTI)

Jan 18: Wrestlers gather at the protest site in Jantar Mantar and level allegations of sexual harassment against WFI chief Singh. They allege Singh has done that for many years. Vinesh also says she has received death threats from WFI officials close to the president. The wrestlers allege that there is an environment of “fear and intimidation” in national camps and even some national coaches act on Singh’s behalf. They demand Singh’s resignation and dissolution of the WFI. Singh refutes all charges.

Jan 18: Sports Ministry seeks explanation from the WFI and gives it 72 hours to respond. The ministry says action could be taken against the federation as per the provisions of the National Sports Development Code if WFI fails to meet the deadline.

Jan 19: BJP member and former wrestler Babita Phogat meets the wrestlers and says she will speak to the government. Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya, world championships medallist Deepak Punia join the protest. Wrestlers from Haryana and Delhi also come out in support. However, they ask politicians to stay away from the protest. Wrestlers say they are have evidence of sexual harassment and, if need be, will file an FIR against Singh.

Jan 19: Wrestlers meet Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence. The meeting lasts nearly five hours ending in the wee hours but no solution is found.

Jan 20: Wrestlers continue their protest, write a complaint letter to the Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha. They again demand Singh’s resignation, formation of an inquiry committee to probe the allegations, dissolution of WFI and appointing a new committee to run WFI in consultation with the wrestlers.

Jan 20: IOA constitutes a seven-member panel under multiple world champion and 2012 Olympic medallist MC Mary Kom to inquire into the allegations.

Jan 21: Wrestlers meet Thakur again. After fresh deliberations, wrestlers call off protest late in the night after the sports minister says an Oversight Committee will be formed to probe the allegations and Singh will step aside till the probe is completed.

Jan 21: WFI submits response to Ministry, denies allegations of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by president Singh and coaches. “Not a single allegation of sexual harassment is accepted nor has ever been noticed nor found nor so far complained nor reported to sexual harassment committee to WFI, hence allegations to that effect are equally malicious and unfounded without being any truth in the matter,” it said.

Jan 21: Sports ministry asks WFI to suspend all ongoing activities with immediate effect, including a ranking tournament in Gonda and scheduled emergency AGM meeting of WFI. The ministry also suspended assistant secretary of WFI, Vinod Tomar.

Jan 23: Ministry names Mary Kom as head of the five-member Oversight Committee (OC). Olympic bronze medallist grappler Yogeshwar Dutt, former India badminton player Trupti Murgunde, former CEO of Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), Captain .Rajagopalan and former SAI Executive Director (Teams) Radhica Sreeman were also part of the committee. The committee was given four weeks to complete the probe. OC was mandated to run WFI's functioning during the period.

Jan 31: Protesting wrestlers complain they were not consulted on the names of the panel members. Babita Phogat was included in the Oversight Committee as the sixth member.

Feb 23: Oversight Committee's tenure extended by two weeks

April 16: WFI announces election on May 7 after the Oversight Committee’s report was submitted to the sports ministry. The ministry does not make the report public. Singh, who completed three terms in office, says he will not contest for president's post

April 23: Wrestlers, including Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, return to the protest site at Jantar Mantar. They say seven female wrestlers, including a minor, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at CP police station but Delhi Police has not registered FIR. They demand police register an FIR against Singh based on the complaint and ask the Ministry to make public the findings of the Oversight Committee.

April 24: Sports Ministry says absence of a duly constituted Internal Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act is one of the ‘major findings’ in the probe report of the Oversight Committee (OC). The Ministry also declared WFI's election process 'null and void.'. In a letter to the IOA president PT Usha, the Ministry asks the IOA to form an ad-hoc committee to conduct the WFI elections within 45 days of the panel’s formation and run the WFI during the period.

April 25: Wrestlers move Supreme Court seeking registration of FIR against Singh. SC terms the sexual harassment allegations against Singh as “serious” and issued notice to the Delhi Police asking it to file its response by Friday

April 27: IOA forms three-member panel. Usha says protesting wrestlers should have shown some discipline and, instead of taking the streets, should have approached the IOA

April 28: Delhi Police informs Supreme Court it will register an FIR against Singh. A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha directs Delhi Police Commissioner to make an assessment of the threat perception to the grapplers and provide adequate security to one of them who is a minor.

April 28: Wrestlers say they will continue their protest against WFI chief until he is sent behind bars.

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